Megakaryocyte and megakaryocyte precursor related gene therapies

David A. Wilcox


Hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) can be safely collected from the body, genetically modified and re infused into a patient with the goal to express the transgene product for an individual's lifetime. Hematologic defects that can be corrected with an allogeneic bone marrow transplant can theoretically also be treated with gene replacement therapy. Since some genetic disorders affect distinct cell lineages, researchers are utilizing HSC gene transfer techniques employing lineage specific endogenous gene promoters to confine transgene expression to individual cell types (e.g., ITGA2B for inherited platelet defects). HSC appear to be an ideal target for platelet gene therapy because they can differentiate into megakaryocytes which are capable of forming several thousand anucleate platelets that circulate within blood vessels to establish hemostasis by repairing vascular injury. Platelets play an essential role in other biological processes (immune response, angiogenesis) as well as diseased states (atherosclerosis, cancer, thrombosis). Thus, recent advances in genetic manipulation of megakaryocytes could lead to new and improved therapies for treating a variety of disorders. In summary, genetic manipulation of megakaryocytes has progressed to the point where clinically relevant strategies are being developed for human trials for genetic disorders affecting platelets. Nevertheless, challenges still need to be overcome to perfect this field; and therefore, strategies to increase the safety and benefit of megakaryocyte gene therapy will be discussed.

  • Submitted July 1, 2015.
  • Accepted September 30, 2015.